A bad day, a short fuse, lack of sleep, too much stress; these are just a few of the many reasons it’s easy to lose your temper with your child, on occasion. Being angry or impatient is perfectly normal and acceptable, as long as you refrain from taking it out on others. You don’t have to like, love or even understand everything your child says or does, but you do have to learn to control your temper and apologize when your frustration gets the best of you.
Before you can apologize to your teen for losing your temper, you need to calm down, advises James Lehman, M.S.W., child behavioral therapist writing for Empowering Parents. Your apology will sound more sincere and meaningful if you aren’t saying it out of frustration and anger. For example, tell your child that you need a few minutes to relax and calm down before you can continue this conversation, and go do something that helps you calm down, whether you take a walk around the block, practice yoga poses or mentally count to a number high enough to help. Once you are calm, talk to your child.
Give Your Child Some Space
According to Debbie Pincus, M.S., L.M.H.C., with more than 25 years experience in family therapy, writing for Empowering Parents, your child might need a little time to calm down. Whether you feel you need a few minutes or not, your child might. For example, if you lose your temper and spend a significant amount of time yelling at your child or lecturing her for whatever it is you are upset about and then end your tirade with an apology, she might not be ready to accept it. Give her some time to sort through her own feelings before you apologize, and you’ll have a better chance of getting through to her.
According to Joe White, author of the book, “Sticking With Your Teen: How to Keep From Coming Unglued No Matter What,” an apology from you might be one of the most powerful things you can say to your child. Take a deep breath, and tell your child that you were wrong for losing your temper. Tell him you are sorry, and ask him to forgive you. As long as everyone has taken the time they need to calm down and let go of the anger they held onto in the midst of your argument, he’s probably going to accept your apology.
Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings
Your child may decide that she wants to continue to discuss the situation, after you apologize, by telling you that she’s really hurt by the way you just lost your temper with her. According to Pincus, you need to acknowledge her feelings, rather than discount them. If you tell her that it’s over and that it doesn’t matter now or that she’s too sensitive, she may feel that you don’t consider her feelings valid, which could cause another argument and/or cause her to feel your apology was insincere.